Researchers are continually trying to figure out better ways to determine if a person has cancer, and as early as possible when it’s most curable. The goal is for an effective test that’s easier on the patient with quicker results for the doctor. The latest breakthrough in technology is a liquid biopsy. A biopsy is a sample of cells or tissue extracted from any part of the body and sent to a lab for cancer testing. Liquid biopsy blood testing enables oncologists to quickly detect and track cancer biomarkers.

Transitioning from Traditional to More Advanced Detection Methods

Circulating tumor DNAs (ctDNA) are fragments of DNA that break away from tumors and travel through the body via blood circulation. A test sample procured from tumor DNA, by inserting a needle into the tumor, doesn’t show all of the genetic changes in  particular cancers, or the rest of the places in the body that cancer may be. However, all of the DNA fragments are pooled together in the ctDNA which can reveal other mutations that may exist in the body. A liquid biopsy performed together with a traditional biopsy of the solid tumor produces valuable and informative results. The sequencing of ctDNA provides added confidence to final diagnostic testing results. Being that ctDNA tests are quantitative, they are used to track mutation loads.

Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are cells that have shed into the lymphatics or vasculature from a tumor and made their way into the bloodstream. CTCs are often responsible for the growth of additional tumors, or metastases, in other organs. Like evaluations garnered from tissue biopsies, CTCs obtained through liquid biopsies can be used to test changes in protein expression, characterize tumor cells at the molecular level, and analyze material for protein and DNA targets.

The Future of Liquid Biopsies

Liquid biopsies have become valuable tools for cancer screenings in patients with particular types of cancer. Yet, there is still a myriad of issues to resolve in refining the process and applying it to every type of cancer known in the body. 

The more complex application of using liquid biopsies is in trying to detect whether any cancer cells exist in people who have not been diagnosed with cancer. An effective liquid biopsy of the future will find cancer in someone with no symptoms and locate that cancer in the body. It will also inform whether or not the cancer requires treatment and how to best design the treatment.

At Joliet Oncology-Hematology Associates, Ltd. (JOHA), we strive to provide the most comprehensive treatment available. That’s why our team of experts will help guide you through your treatment. To learn more about the services that JOHA can provide, browse our website for information, contact us via email, visit our Facebook page, or call our office to learn more (815) 320-3896.